Beau Travail (1999)

Beau travail / Good Work
Feature Film | Drama | France | French | 1h30m
Dir: Claire Denis | Scr: Claire Denis & Jean-Pol Fargeau | Novella: Herman Melville | Ph: Agnès Godard | Prod: Patrick Grandperret | Mus: Charles Henri de Pierrefeu & Eran Zur | Ed: Nelly Quettier | PD: Arnaud de Moleron | Snd: Christophe Winding | Cast: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin, Richard Courcet, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Adiatou Massudi, Mickael Ravovski

With barely any dialogue and only minimal voiceover, Denis’s elegiac cinepoem all but abandons plot. What there is of one – based on Melville’s Billy Budd – sees a former legionnaire recall his professional downfall in an unnamed African desert, when jealousy over the attention that a new recruit was receiving from his beloved commander caused him to react murderously. For the most part, though, it merely concentrates majestically on the everyday lives of the legionnaires, depicting in sensuous, lyrical detail the blood, sweat, and tears shed in the name of colonialism, with that merest hint of plot just bubbling away beneath the surface. Poetic direction, beautiful photography, subtle scoring, and committed performances combine to oft sublime effect.